Some time ago, I felt God give me a very clear warning to be on my guard against ‘distraction’. When you are working toward a God-given vision, distractions will come, and not every distraction immediately looks ‘wrong’. Sometimes a distraction can come in the form of a compliment (which massages our ego) or in the form of an interesting invitation. And sometimes it comes (more obviously) in the form of a fiery dart.
In the book of Nehemiah, we are given some very clear principles on how to avoid distraction. In chapter 6, Nehemiah was busy rebuilding the temple wall. He had a clear vision and mandate from God, but Scripture tells us that Nehemiah’s enemies tried several times to distract him from finishing the wall. And they used many different tactics. There is much to learn from this story.
When Nehemiah’s enemies, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem discovered that Nehemiah had nearly finished the wall, they issued him an invitation. We do not know how the invitation was sent, but we do know they requested to meet with Nehemiah in the plain of Ono. As leaders, sometimes we are sent flattering invitations, and to avoid embarrassment, we can say yes to things which distract us from the calling God has given us. But Nehemiah was focused on the job he was meant to do, and he had a sense that these people were planning to do him harm, so he turned down the offer.
Nehemiah’s enemies were not going to take no for an answer. Scripture tells us they continued to try and distract him, and in fact, they sent him an invitation four times. When this failed, they tried a new strategy – insinuation. They told Nehemiah that they had ‘heard a rumour’ that he was planning to build a new kingdom and make himself the king. Nehemiah had the strength to simply say ‘There is no truth in your story’, and once again, he declined their invitation to meet and discuss it. This obvious distraction only strengthened Nehemiah’s resolve, and he became even more determined to finish the project on time.
When insinuation didn’t work, Nehemiah’s enemies tried to intimidate him. Nehemiah was warned that he should lock himself in the temple as his enemies were going to kill him that night, but Nehemiah knew he could not run from danger, and he also knew that if he went into the temple (a place reserved for the priests), he would be violating God’s law. Through it all, Nehemiah remained intentional and focused on his goal to get the wall built. Scripture tells us that the wall was completed in just 52 days, and his enemies realised the work was done ‘with the help of God.’
If you are a leader, can I encourage you to be aware of distractions? I believe the enemy is trying to draw leaders into distraction and to divert them far away from the vision God has given them. The enemy can do this through flattery as well as by sending people to attack our character or intimidate us. By staying intentional in all we do, and by focusing on the plan and the promise, we can see things through to completion.
Can I encourage you today to remain focused on the plan and the vision God has given you, and like Nehemiah, to not be led astray by distractions.